So I’m doing my daily 45 minute morning commute to work in heavy interstate traffic and I am wondering “What is the nature of reality?” That is, what is emptiness? Am I ever going to be able to realize it except on an intellectual level? Let me share some of what wound through this ever active mind:
Emptiness is the true nature of reality according to Buddhist teaching. It is the absolute truth (there is also relative truth but that’s boring) I have always thought it’s the most important idea in Buddhism and the most difficult to grasp.
Here is an exposition of it:
“The nature of reality is totally free. Therefore anything can arise, anything can be transformed, and anything can manifest. There are no restrictions at all. This is how things appear. In reality…nothing solidly exists at all—not the tiniest tip of a rabbit hair truly exists as a solid object. Everything is totally open and in the state of emptiness. Yet while there is not even one single hair of anything that is solid, concrete, and unchangeable, everything can appear and be transformed. Everything can be everything. That is how nature is.” Kenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
“..awareness of nowness is actually the Buddha..” – Dudjom Tersar Ngondro
I have a video series of lectures on Buddhism by a professor who said, in illustrating emptiness, that it had been said that no one steps in the same stream twice. He said, in trying to relate this to emptiness in the Buddhist sense, no one steps in the same stream even once. In other words, nothing exists as a solid object at all not even from one second to the next.
This means - On the absolute level of reality, there is no self, there is no karma, there is no reincarnation, no lamas and there are no buddhas. There is no..(we can go on and on ). People do seem to forget this. I could bring this up in the discussion group one day and it would open a huge can of worms. Maybe one day I will be so bold.
“Everything can be everything” = non-dualism. It is the whole and therefore this is a true statement – only from that viewpoint.
Friends at the Dharma Center who think “they” are going to go to a “Pure Land” when they die or aspire to going to a Pure Land – I say no, that is not it (I heard a nun say this with a big smile on her face). That’s because there is no self. There is no solidly existing “you”. “Nothing solidly exists at all” Nothing means nothing, and that includes you, your Self. Do you listen to what the Kenchen, your own teacher, said? No solidly existing thing anywhere. You cannot make a statement that “you” are going somewhere after you die. It can’t be, because there is really no “you”. Who is going there? Ramana Maharshi (a Hindu) understood this perfectly. When his students were very upset that Maharshi was dying, he said “Where am I going to go? I am here.” There cannot be a statement like “I want to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime” that makes sense in light of the teachings on emptiness. There is no "I".
The great second century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna said:
“Whatever is dependently arisen (that’s everything, folks!) is unceasing, unborn, unannihilated, not perfect, not coming, not going, without distinction, without identity, and free from conceptual construction.” --Nagarjuna – The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way (my bolding)
Who is the “I”? Furthermore, what is enlightenment?
These are large questions, beyond the scope of this short blog entry.
There seems to be this idea in the Dharma Center that enlightened people never lose their temper, they are passive, friendly, giving, they don’t get mad and they always have this stone like self-control. They are always compassionate and love everyone, they don’t get angry and are always doing good deeds for other people. This is a sort of unspoken expectation. I think that this is a wrong view. I don’t say everyone there has it, but those who do don’t really listen to what their teachers or the teachings say.
"Awareness of nowness is the Buddha." Nowness, that is, the present moment. Dudjom Rinpoche had it right with that statement. The Buddha is not a god and not a person. We ALL can do this kind of awareness for short periods of time. Then the conceptual mind kicks into high gear and we start thinking about tomorrow, our plans, or the past, or what somebody said or did. Then we are gone.
It is simply folly to try to label reality, tame it or confine it in any way. Unfortunately, we have the label –“Buddhist.” Oh, the perils of organized religion.